Local Nomads Podcast | Episode 2 | Seasonal Work
Thinking about getting a Summer Job in Alaska? Here are our 10 reasons why you should spend this summer in SKAGWAY, AK.
...with photos that will make you want to apply for a job Right Now and book your flights for May!
There are lots of companies still hiring for 2018! Click here to access our free list of hiring companies and available positions in Skagway!
“It’s a beautiful day for flying,”
the unshaven, jeans wearing pilot said as he casually strolled through the door 40 minutes late.
For the past hour we’d been sitting at our gate in Juneau International Airport waiting to board a 7 seat Cessna for the final leg of our journey to Skagway, AK. We were tired and uncomfortable, and not in the mood.
“How do you guys feel about taking a detour over the ice fields?” He asked.
Maybe we were wrong about this guy.
14 days earlier I had lost my job in Oregon, just 10 dark days after our landlord informed us that he’d sold our house. We had to go somewhere, quickly.
We had no idea when we accepted our jobs at a brewery in Skagway, Alaska that it would be a decision that would change the entire course of our lives.
We had no Idea what to expect when we got to Skagway. We assumed it would be a sleepy place with not much going on.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Skagway, Alaska is summer camp for adults.
We were shocked to realize that nearly everyone in town was our age, everyone was from everywhere, and there were no boring people in sight.
We fell in love instantly.
According to the most recent census the population of Skagway is about 900, but in the summertime there are over 2,000 seasonal workers who flock here for summer jobs.
There are tons of jobs in Skagway, all you have to do is apply. You can work for restaurants, bars, tour operators, the train, the hotel, the bus companies, or any of the various retail locations in town.
Skagway is set up just the way it was when it was built in 1898. Broadway is lined with restored period era buildings, complete with false fronts, and there are wooden boardwalks along the main streets. It’s a town rich with history, which it celebrates and holds close.
Skagway has 5 bars in town, each with their own unique attributes; one of them even stays open until 5am, and reopens for breakfast at 8.
There’s live music to hear on almost any given night all summer long from local bands and open mic, to Karaoke for the brave.
Also, Marijuana is legal and (Updated: 3/2017) available at the local dispensary!
2. Get hired and move in!
When we arrived, we quickly learned that the most difficult thing about getting to Skagway was finding a place to live once you got there. Thankfully, our employer had housing available.
The entire town is only 4 blocks wide by 22 blocks long; and it’s fully enclosed by mountains and ocean. There just aren’t enough houses for all of the people.
Therefore, most summer jobs offer housing. The easiest way to get housing in Skagway is to get hired for the summer sometime around February or March and move in around April/May; that way they don’t run out of space before you get hired.
3 . End Dates
Every seasonal contract comes with something very important written on it, your end date.
Having a summer job with an end date allows you the freedom of knowing exactly when you’re going to be done working. You can make plans to travel to your next destination, or back home, or to your next job easily.
It also prevents you from getting burnt out since you can clearly see your end date in sight.
The leaves changing on the mountains around Skagway is a tell tale sign of the end of the season, as well as the increased visibility of the Northern Lights.
If you stay late enough in the the season you may even experience the first snowfall on the surrounding mountain tops.
The image Above is a photo of one of Skagway's local bands during the July 4th celebration. The community is very supportive of the musicians in town. You can see live music on any given night in Skagway.
The community in Skagway is unlike any we’ve ever seen anywhere. Most people are only here for the summer, although many who come here once, end up coming back year-after-year.
Very few live here year-round, yet there are more and more young people deciding to stay for the winter each year. The local year round community in Skagway is very tightly knit and supportive. They have to be to survive in such an isolated place. It's inspiring to see, really.
People take care of each other and form close relationships, yet still respect each other’s privacy. You can be whoever you want to be here, there’s little judgment, and there’s a friend for everyone.
Besides, we’re all a bunch of weirdos anyway.
Below is an image of community members participating in the Slow Bike Race, an event during Skagway's Annual July 4th Celebration.
It's very rare to have a night in Skagway where nothing is happening. Between weekly live music, open mic nights, trivia nights, karaoke nights, and seasonal events like the Summer Solstice, Rhubarb Festival, and the Red Onion's Drag Show, you'll have plenty to keep you busy.
And if none of that is your jam... you can always gather a few friends to have a low key evening around a campfire with some craft beer. (that's right.. the local liquor store stocks great craft beers!)
5. Tourist Money
Even if you don't particularly enjoy having your town overrun with tourists each day, they bring something very important off the ships and into town with them, money, and you’re going to get that money.
The tourists keep this town alive, and when it comes down to it, they’re the reason we come here. Their money goes into our paychecks, and they’ve got a lot to spend.
We wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t worth our time and money to get here every year.
Say Hello to Goodnight Gracie and Runaway Jim. We worked as costumed characters at a tourist attraction in Skagway.
Servers, bartenders, bus drivers, and tour guides also stand to rake in lots of tips in addition to their hourly wage.
(As a side note, servers and bartenders must also be paid no less than the AK state minimum wage)
In short, the money is good.
We chose to cruise around town with a tandem bike we borrowed from a Skagway local. It's by far one of our favorite ways to travel together. This photo was taken right before we rode this bad boy down the hill on the Dyea Rd.
6. No need for a car.
When the entire town is 22 blocks long by 4 blocks wide, there’s rarely any need for a car.
That’s not to say that people don’t bring their cars here, it’s always nice to drive somewhere across town and get there within 3 minutes, but you can easily get by with a bike.
Some of those people with cars are willing to let you borrow theirs if you need it, and if they're asked politely.
We left ours with a friend in the lower 48 for the whole summer.
7. Hiking & Outdoor Activities
Skagway is heaven for anyone who loves the outdoors.
There are seemingly endless hiking trails including the 33-mile Chilkoot trail used by thousands of prospectors on their way to Dawson City, Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.
Apart from hiking there’s also:
& an 18-hole disc-golf course
Not to mention, you're only 13 miles from British Columbia and the Yukon. If you’re not an outdoorsy type, you just might become one before Fall.
When we worked in Alaska we had the opportunity to take a Glacier Tour for Adam's Birthday! This is us with our friend Chris on top of Mead Glacier.
8. Tours and Excursions
Skagway is a cruise ship port-of-call, so there are lots of tours and excursions for the cruisers.
As a summer local, you can do them too! There’s:
The White Pass Yukon Route train
dog sled tours
a brothel tour
& so many more
If you happen to work for one of these tour operators, you might even get to do a lot of these for free.
9. Long Days
By the summer solstice, the sun sets in Skagway, AK around 10:30PM and rises around 3AM. The sky never even fully darkens in-between.
These long days allow you to fit so much more into your daily schedule.
Sure, it takes a little getting used to. It’s a little weird at first to wake up to the sun at 4:30AM and to go to bed when it’s still light outside. But soon you’ll see how much you benefit from having 6 extra hours of light each day.
When it gets dark around 8:00, your brain tells you it’s time to go home. Here in Skagway, it stays light until much later so it’s always easy to stay out and do things. Like...
Go for a hike after work or spontaneously go camping for a night!
10. Friends for life
You’re going to make a lot of friends in Skagway. You’re going to work, live, and play with a lot of the same people day in and day out.
You’re going to develop strong bonds with people that you can’t even explain to your friends “down south.”
When September comes, you wipe your tears, say your goodbyes and send each other off. With the HOPE that maybe you get to see them next summer.
(You know what they say in Skagway? Hope's Free...)
Or maybe you make plans to meet them somewhere else in the world.
Either way, you’re going to make new friends for life here, you can’t even avoid it.
Take the leap! Download the free Seasonal Work Handbook!
We’ll teach you how to break free of your daily grind!
What's stopping you?
Have you ever worked a seasonal job? What were your experiences like?